Fewer than 1,000 of the 7,000 surveys sent in January about Groveport Madison elementary and middle school grade configurations were returned, but those who responded had definite likes and dislikes.

Representatives from Hanover Research, based in Arlington, Virginia, presented the findings to the board of education March 28.

District officials are considering the need for new facilities to address overcrowding and requested the survey to help them make decisions.

Questions were emailed to more than 7,000 parents, staff members and community stakeholders.

The firm received 954 responses, with half coming from parents, said Anthony Guadagni, Hanover's content director.

Guadagni said the most common classroom configuration in the United States is the middle school model currently used in the Groveport Madison district. It places students in kindergarten through fifth grade in one building, those in grades 6-8 in another building and grades 9-12 in a separate building.

Survey respondents were asked to rank their preferences for four possible grade configurations:

* The current middle school model.

* Placing students in grades K-2 in one building, grades 3-4 in another building, grades 5-6 in a third building and grades 7-8 in a fourth building.

* Placing grades K-6 under one roof and grades 7-8 in another building.

* Placing grades K-8 in one building

Guadagni said two of the choices were "very unpopular" -- the K-8 option and the K-6 and 7-8 option.

About 77 percent of respondents said either the current configuration or the four-school model was their first or second choice.

Nearly 74 percent of respondents said the K-8 model would be their last choice.

One of the reasons for its lack of support could be because there wasn't a clear understanding of how it would work, board member Libby Gray said. For example, there would likely be separate busing and start/dismissal times for elementary and middle school students, even if they attended classes in the same building.

Guadagni said additional research needs to be done to come up with an accurate cost estimate of the various options because nearly half of those who took the survey said the price tag should be "very" or "extremely" important in the decision-making process.

"We really don't know what those configurations would look like played out at scale," he said.

As for school climate, 64 percent of parents said their child's school is in a "safe and welcoming neighborhood" and 61 percent said their child's school provides a "safe learning space."

Hanover Research representatives will return to the district April 17 to conduct focus groups with parents of current students.

"Surveys tell us how people feel. The focus groups are going to tell us why they feel that way," Guadagni said.